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Stories from the valley

Traveling California Route 45

Contributed by Steve Beckley

I’ve been traveling State Route (Highway) 45 all my life.  The highway, which travels from the south to north direction starting at Route 113 in Knights Landing to Route 32 in Hamilton City and runs parallel to the Sacramento River, has been and continues to be a road I travel regularly.  My first trip on 45 was a few days after I was born in Colusa to my home in Grimes.

All the towns on 45 have rich histories tied to the Sacramento River and Sacramento Valley agriculture.  I recently drove the entire route starting in Knights Landing that takes you into rice country and, about 5.5 miles from Knight Landing, you enter a tunnel of trees and on the north side of the road you will see how a local farmer uses farm equipment parts as art.

From there you continue northwest and enter Reclamation District 108 country, keep on the lookout for many types of birds that are enjoying the flooded rice fields this time of year.  Also hawks are abundant during the winter on the lookout from their perches on power poles and trees.  The wide open landscape offers great views of the Sutter Buttes on a clear day.

At the stop sign in Grimes, look to the east and you will see a mural by the Post Office that honors riverboats showing the steamboat Valletta on The River.  If you want to see the Sacramento River, go up the stairs where the street past the post office dead ends.


As you head North on 45 you will pass the Grand Island Shrine, go through the site of the former town of Sycamore and will join Route 20 as it heads for Colusa.

Colusa is the “Big Town’ on 45 with the only stoplights on the route.   It is well your time to stop and look around.  The Courthouse is a historical landmark, lots of great old homes and buildings, and wonderful place to shop and have refreshments or a meal.  Also the Colusa Levee Scenic Park located along Main Street, offers a great opportunity to enjoy a walk along the Sacramento River.

Once you leave Colusa you will go through orchard country and open fields.  The Colusa Casino is a few miles north of the town.  Then you will come to the town of Princeton. One unique business in Princeton is Beckley Welding and Machine Shop.  Greg Beckley (my 3rd cousin) specializes in building tubs that are used throughout the valley for duck blinds and has a collection of iron sculptures in front of this shop.


Once you leave Princeton, you will go up on the levee and just north of town next to the river is the abandoned ferry that crossed the river there.  Once there were six ferries that crossed the river.

As you travel along the river you will see Osprey nests as they are able to easily fish in the Sacramento River as it is shallower in these parts.  Also there is an access to wildlife areas just past Princeton and east of Ord Bend.

The road then takes you past Four Corners, and through the orchards, the small communities of Glenn and Ord Bend.  If you need a cold drink or supplies you better stop at the store in Four Corners as Glenn and Ord Bend no longer have stores.  But you get a sense of the community that these small towns have with the churches, fire house, and community hall that are there.

Just south of Hamilton City, I was treated to the sight of Sandhill Cranes enjoying a flooded rice field.  They were eating and watching the traffic go by.  No matter how many times I travel this road I see something different.


Route 45 ends at State Route 32 in Hamilton City, if you go east on 32 it’s 10 miles to Chico and if you go west it’s 10 miles to Orland.  I turned west and headed for Orland and then drove old Hwy 99 W back to Woodland which is the subject for another blog.  But before heading west I had to go into Hamilton City to see the abandoned Holly Sugar plant where I worked during my Chico State days and is responsible for me getting my first job out of college with California Beet Growers Association.


There’s so much to see and, for me, a lifetime of memories on this scenic part of our valley!